What Depression Looks Like
RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Tatianna said it best in her spoken word poem "The Same Parts" during her stint on All Stars 2: "Because what you see, isn't always the truth."
Of course, she was referring to the fact that men who flirt with her while she's in drag aren't aware that she's actually a dude. But as someone who spent most of their life hiding their depression behind closed doors, I found this piece of prose incredibly profound and all too relatable with what I was dealing with.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 20 after I attempted to run away from home and start anew in New York City. And though it took some time to receive a proper diagnosis, I always knew something was wrong. No matter what I tried to do to be happy or "normal," there was always this lingering feeling that something was slightly off.
I often tell people it's as though there's this black orb floating around me at all times, feeding me with negative thoughts to consume my happiness and well-being in order to take over. Pretty dark stuff, huh?
The thing is, I was always great at hiding it from those closest to me. Not a single one of my friends or family members knew I was going through any of this until I hopped in my PT Cruiser and tried to drive from California to New York. Heck, I even hid my depression symptoms from myself, always reiterating the fact that it could always be worse and I was just tired and stressed out.
Part of me didn't want to accept what I was going through, so I kept it tucked away in the deepest crevice of my mind, only allowing myself as little amount of time as possible to deal with it all. And by that I mean crying myself to sleep or sleeping as much as I could to avoid feeling anything at all.
Eventually, things got really bad and I had to deal with it. So I went to therapy, stopped going to therapy, took Lexapro, got off Lexapro, went back to therapy, stopped again, and here I am—still depressed, but learning to manage my symptoms each and every day. Now, would you ever notice this by looking at me? Not in the slightest.
Unlike most ailments, depression doesn't necessarily showcase itself the way you'd expect. You can't ever really see it in anyone, which is why most people are shocked when I reveal I have depression. To them, I don't look depressed.
I'm seldom ever seen without a smile on my face and I try to be a positive ray of sunshine in the world, mainly because I spent so little time being that person for myself.
I maintain an upbeat attitude when I force myself out into the world. I'm chipper and cheery, always trying to appear as welcoming and approachable as possible to those who need it most.
I can't tell you the number of times I've been told, 'Well, you don't look like you have depression.' And though it may seem like a compliment, it's far from it.
Hearing that has caused more damage than one will ever know. Being depressed, I already feel an immense amount of guilt surrounding my symptoms. I still have problems accepting that I have the mental illness, because my life isn't that difficult. I've had my fair share of tragedy, but who hasn't?
Being told I don't look depressed or shouldn't be depressed has made it that much more difficult for me to seek help and come to terms with my experience with the mental illness over the years. If your loved ones told you your illness wasn't real, wouldn't you believe them?
So the next time someone confides in you about their depression (or any mental illness, for that matter), don't mention how their optimistic nature does a decent job of masking how they really feel. Because what you see, isn't always the truth.
Depression doesn't look the way you think it does, nor does everyone with the mental illness experience it in quite the same way. It might not be able to be seen, unless it's behind closed doors, but that doesn't mean it's not there.
If you or a loved one feels as though they might be depressed, be sure to reach out to your doctor or a licensed professional to get an expert's opinion on the matter.
If you need someone to talk to or are just looking for resources, I'm a huge fan of To Write Love on Her Arms and Hope for the Day. These organizations were there for me when I needed someone to turn to, so now I'm passing them onto you.